Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Brightcove’s Old-School IPO

Yes, Brightcove is a money-losing Web company trying to go public, just like several other Web companies this year.

But compared to some of its peers, Brightcove is almost a throwback: CEO Jeremy Allaire’s company has a clearly defined business, straightforward accounting and a minimum of insider selling in the run-up to its IPO.

A quick glance at the the company’s filing will tell you that:

Brightcove’s business is easy to understand. It generates sales by helping Web publishers put video online. That “software as a service” model has let the company boost sales, along with the Web video boom. In 2006, it posted revenues of $1.4 million. Last year, it pulled in $43.7 million.

The company’s accounting doesn’t require a good imagination. There’s nothing in Brightcove’s S-1 along the lines of Groupon’s now-discarded “ACSOI,” or Demand Media’s novel approach to expensing content costs. And while plenty of established companies use not-strictly-official measures like EBITDA to show off their finances in the best possible light, Brightcove doesn’t bother — there’s not a single reference to “non-GAAP accounting.” Which makes it quite easy to see that the company lost $67.5 million from 2006 through 2010, and another $9.5 million in the first half of this year. It says it doesn’t expect to turn a profit until 2013 at the earliest.

Brightcove’s investors and employees are sticking around. Unlike Groupon, Zynga, and a few other highfliers that haven’t filed yet, including Twitter and Facebook, there’s been very little insider selling. Early investor AOL got rid of all of its shares last November, and last year Allaire sold off 1.3 million shares for a gain of $4.8 million; some other employees sold a few more shares. But Allaire still holds another 2.5 million shares — 4.5 percent of the company’s equity — and as far as I can tell, that’s about it for insider selling.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work